9 Tips for Transitioning to Customer Self Service

Guest post from Ross Clayton for the Government Contact Centre Summit 2014

Customer self-service is the obvious solution for government contact centres looking to preserve their operating budgets.

Not only does it keep low value, high volume transactions out of the contact centre, it also improves your customer experience by offering them a simple, fast and easy way to get the information that they need.

To help you on your journey, here are nine key things to consider when moving to self-service:

  1. Decide on your channel strategy – with a new social media channel appearing every minute, you can’t be everywhere. Instead, map out your target demographics and the channels they frequent, and tailor your efforts accordingly.
  1. Bring your customers with you – spending time and money on developing a new communication channel will be a fruitless endeavour unless your customers use it. Tell them about it in person, over the phone and any other way you can.
  1. Make it simple stupid – if your self-service channel is more complicated than doing it over the phone, it will go the way of the dinosaurs. Keep the interface simple and reduce the burden of effort on behalf of your customers.
  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel – You are not the first government agency to move to self-service, and you certainly won’t be the last. Draw on the lessons learned by your peers like ServiceNSW at home and the UK’s Digital by Default strategy abroad.
  1. The left hand should know what the right hand is doing – Integrate your self-service channels with the rest of your organisation. If someone is half way through a form online, you should know about it when they call you.
  1. Sing from the same hymn sheet – Consistency of message.The information on your website should be the same as that available on the phone. If your customers consider the phone channel the source of truth, you can guarantee they will continue to use it as their first port of call.
  1. Create a feedback loop – If customers often call the contact centre due to a similar issue or error, ensure that this is fed back into self-service design. That way problems can be addressed at source, and interactions can be resolved online rather than on the phone, saving time and money for all concerned.
  1. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back – Often we see Contact Centre Managers shying away from newer channels, particularly social media, as they are more fearful of what might go wrong than the potential upside.
  1. Up skill your staff – Contact centres have come a long way from the call centres of yesterday. A modern customer service agent needs to be savvy across multiple channels. Ensure that you give them the tools they need to do the job.

Leaders need to step up to drive hospital efficiency

Health is the second largest area of government spend across Australia, and the forecasts aren’t looking great.

National costs are predicted to increase exponentially; at current rates Treasury estimates health expenditure to exceed the entire state and local government tax base by 2043.

It’s pretty clear something has to change; preventative measures are without doubt the best option, reducing the need for healthcare in the first place.

Beyond this, hospitals are the costliest element to Australia’s health system, taking up to 40 per cent of current health expenditure. With that in mind, the spotlight is well and truly on efficiency.

There’s currently a big focus on technology and the potential for increased patient predictions and improved flow. For example, in NSW hospitals have begun publishing real time queue data for emergency departments.

I wanted to explore the driving force behind these changes. As the largest employer in Australia, hospitals have a pretty significant resource at their fingertips that could drive some real change.

With a yearly increase of around 9 per cent in emergency patients, Dr Harvey Lander, Director of Medical Services at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Health Service is no stranger to finding ways of being more efficient. Ultimately, ensuring people don’t stay in hospital longer than they need to.

Dr Lander has been working on a Clinical Engagement Strategy at Hornsby Hospital that drives mentoring and leadership, and it’s clearly working. He’s been driving a clinical engagement project at the hospital that increased NEAT targets by nearly 20 per cent year on year. He explained the role strong leadership has played:

“Many clinicians have inspired me over the years. Those who thrive on a sense of purpose and mastery of all facets of their profession. The most effective leaders can collaborate, coach, mentor and build superb teams.

“Such clinical champions are needed to affect transformational change. We need to work together to improve our relationships and collaborate to make a difference both for patients and staff.

“There’s a real potential to improve efficiencies throughout the whole process within a hospital. At the core of this change is the ability to get clinicians to the right places at the right time.

“I recently saw a need to improve our care locally, driving a collaborative approach across the whole hospital.”

The project began with a small group of clinicians at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Health Service, developing a vision of where they wanted to go. The team, with the help of a clinical redesign team leader, developed a one pager to outline what they wanted to do. This was then used to test the project and seek feedback from others that would be involved:

“We shared and market tested with other clinicians whenever we could at clinician meetings and during VMO individual performance reviews. The intent was to make this process about involving our clinicians in a meaningful way, where our most important resource could generate ideas for improving the patient experience, care and outcomes.   We have also been conscious of involving the junior medical workforce, because they are often highlighted as a forgotten group.

“We want to create a positive culture to make things easier and better for our staff, beyond the targets and numbers everyone is used to seeing. We want our clinicians to see, feel and believe that we are supporting the work they do to provide the best patient care,” he said.

For widespread rollout to be effective, it’s safe to say there are a few obstacles. Anyone driving change will know to expect challenges. There are still large pools of people that don’t want to be a mentor. Identifying clinical champions who are willing to get involved and drive change can be challenging. It’s a matter of passion, time, volition and skills.

Dr Lander explained the key to success comes in finding the individuals that are committed, rather than focusing on the ones that aren’t:

“Our clinicians are becoming increasingly committed to driving change that’s going to make a real difference. It’s a tumbleweed effect. Supporting these individuals is vital. We try to acknowledge their ideas and act on them, and celebrate successes to make sure our staff feel valued. This can sometimes be as simple as a genuine ‘thank you’. It also means being approachable and available, recognising the effects system demands on staff, as well as the effects of reform fatigue and burnout.

“Making patients the centre of our collective action has aided us in finding a common purpose and helped inform everything we want to do. We have been encouraging clinical staff to find creative solutions that they can implement. This has encouraged clinical directors to drive a lot of important conversations, helping to set high expectations. We know that competition drives doctors; they want to be the best in their craft and won’t tolerate being left behind. We are fortunate to respect each of our roles – credibility is important. The importance of building, strengthening and even repairing relationships is integral to our improving success.”

Such an impressive increase in results has of course exposed other challenges along the way, including tension between the system and clinicians. But it has also ensured a deeper understanding of the clinician and honesty when looking at individual, collective and cultural differences to help meet expectations (both internally and externally). Dr Lander shared his seven key areas to driving success:

  • Be willing to be involved, and lead if you are so inclined;
  • Be open to inspiration and innovation, share your ideas as they are the most important;
  • Take time to understand your local culture and what drives your clinicians;
  • Be honest about where you are and what needs to be done;
  • Acknowledge any conflict and be ready to have the necessary courageous conversations, but be kind to your colleagues;
  • This is a journey, so have realistic timeframes for the change., It can take five to ten years to change a culture;
  • And look to learn from others in Australia and internationally.

Join Dr Harvey Lander during his presentation ‘Improving Patient Flow with Effective Management and Staff Engagement’ at Hospital Efficiency 2014 in July.

Driving efficiency across healthcare – are nurses the answer?

Australia’s productivity agenda has prompted the healthcare sector to improve efficiency, because patient demand and complex healthcare needs have dramatically increased.

The sector cannot afford cost blowouts, and efficiency is the way forward for patient flow, work flow and waste reduction.

Queensland Health recently set out to achieve an efficiency savings target of $214.8 million to support wage increases outlined within the Nurses and Midwives (Queensland Health) Certified Agreement (EB8) 2012. It has placed the role of nursing in a unique position to champion the productivity drive.

Ahead of Hospital Efficiency 2014, I touched base with Dr Frances Hughes, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer for Queensland Health, to get her insights into the challenges, strategies and results of this project.

The role of nursing

Nurses are a major stakeholder in the health sector, with 66,795 nurses and midwives employed throughout the State (as of 30 June 2013).

Queensland Health employs approximately 32,000 nurses, of which the nursing workforce comprises 42 per cent of the entire workforce and 61 per cent of the clinical workforce.

“We are a huge vehicle for change in the health sector, and we’ve had some really exciting efficiency data relating to multiple initiatives. We’re the largest clinical workforce and have a lot of knowledge and depth of capacity to think creatively about new efficiency models,” Frances noted.

Registered nurses equate to 83 per cent of the nursing workforce employed by Queensland Health – approximately 20,823 FTE.

The organisation’s focus on efficiency savings has yielded an incredible $221.3 million return, achieved within 12 months of the EB8 agreement deadline.

“We improved HR management and decreased high cost labour items such as agency, overtime and casual, as well as implemented criteria-led discharge and hospital in the home strategies,” Frances remarked.

Data

A performance scorecard was developed to assist with reporting and monitoring trends across nursing and midwifery services within the public health care sector. These included skill mix, sustainability, productivity and quality.

This scorecard reflects the push to empower the executive directors of nursing with state-wide data to compare. More development is yet to be undertaken towards enhancements in productivity and efficiency measures this year, including a financial impact statement.

Education

Nurses are well placed to collaborate across the healthcare continuum by virtue of their professional knowledge and adaptive capacity.

They are underpinned by numerous options in post-grad professional development pathways – nursing services are evident in all areas of the healthcare system including public, private, not for profit and commercial environments.

Business models

With increased patient demand comes the need to also improve agility within healthcare models.

Queensland Health has delivered nurse-led services through a range of business models including public/private partnerships, Medicare Locals, NGOs and community based services, therefore decreasing demand on acute services.

For example, the Metro South integrated chronic disease clinic, with coordination of heart failure, renal, diabetes and respiratory clinics.

It linked primary and secondary care, resulting in decreased re-admission rates. The savings for heart failure alone were estimated at $885,000 over three years.

Contestability

Contestability is another element on which efforts have been focused. Frances gave an example:

“We introduced the application of an Investment Management Framework, which demonstrated nurse endoscopy as a suitable patient-focused, cost effective, and quality solution to minimise waitlists and improve health outcomes for Queenslanders. It was supported through purchasing framework levers such as Service Line Agreement targets and incentives,” she said.

Challenges

Nursing is going through an innovative transformation in Queensland, but there are still lingering outdated policies and guidelines that impact the overall progress of this journey.

There are also outdated models for healthcare delivery, restricted autonomy in clinical decision-making, and a significant amount of supervision that hampers development.

The role of registered nurses needs to be perceived appropriately as well, to enable them to perform the full scope of work.

Frances noted that: “It’s important to support high-performing nursing services through evidence, continued learning, and understand the link between our skill mix, profiles, efficiencies and patient outcomes.”

Chronic health and an aging population are two issues in Queensland from which nurse-led services can manage, given the right framework.

According to Frances, services need to be driven by patient centricity and deliver safe, quality healthcare that is evidence-based.

“Nurses also need to participate in and lead clinical engagement activities and resource management processes. Furthermore, the services should integrate with business models and be a part of the development in health information technology,” she said.

The nursing portfolio is going through innovation for hospital efficiency. Its influence on the direction for productivity gains is already being realised through results such as the $221.3 million saved.

Outsourcing? Don’t trip up on customer experience…

We’re starting to see some real changes in the Shared Services industry. Whilst the earlier focus on delivery cost remains important, the all-in cost to the enterprise is more in focus.  SLAs are becoming less important as users are realising that green SLAs don’t feel green, cheap does feel cheap, and the lack of the ‘right’ service is spawning an increase of shadow services across the enterprise eating into the initial estimated business case benefits.

The earlier solution to cost pressures through increased scale is facing into the reality that there are two curves at work – benefits of scale versus cost of complexity, and as you scale out across processes the added complexity can cause your benefit case to turn negative.

There is a need to look at this again, and this time from a different direction; the customer perspective, rather than purely from a cost and efficiency perspective.    For the cost element, Shared Services need to be looking to manufacturing to learn new tricks.  Whilst lean has been a buzzword for years, the new focus on lean in the context of a component based service delivery model is gaining ground.

“View every process as if you’re a customer, and then apply learning from the manufacturing industries – when you start doing this you start moving your services away from products and to a customer centric process.” Explained Simen Munter, Group General Manager of Global Shared Services at ANZ when I recently caught up with him to discuss the changing nature of ANZ’s business.

Five years ago, ANZ embarked on a strategic transformation which recognised there was a unique opportunity to create value for shareholders by broadening its presence in Asia, whilst leveraging its strong foundation in Australia and New Zealand, to become a super regional bank.   The move recognised that a once-in-a-century shift was underway in the global economy as growth opportunities moved from the developed economies of the West to the Asia Pacific region.

“Instead of running 33 different banks, we want to be able to gain scale benefits and run as one bank across the 33 markets in which we operate. To do this we have significantly invested in our operations network across the region.

Our hubs network is expanding ANZ’s operations capability to support business growth in a way that is sustainable and cost effective. As a part of our super regional growth strategy we have operations in Australia, New Zealand, Manila (the Philippines), Chengdu (China), Bangalore (India) and Suva (Fiji).”

ANZ Operations

In Shared Services we aspire to operate  through a set of processes which are globally consistent, but able to handle local variations. We work to have the right people in the right locations to offer the best service to our customers.

Simen explained: “Specialist hubs help us build a super regional workforce, giving us access to capabilities that may be limited in our domestic markets. The Manila hub, for example, is a centre of excellence in voice based work. Our hubs are built around local talent pools and expertise.”

“Capability and capacity are the main drivers of a customer centric operating model. Staff in operating hubs provide additional capability to deal with increased volumes and allow in-country teams to focus on other activities that support business and customer outcomes. We work towards sharing products, platforms and processes across our geographies to give us the ability to build a ‘single production line’ and maximise re-use wherever possible.

“A key benefit of our approach is the ability to access ‘been there and done that’ talent, enabling us to leverage experience gained elsewhere. Take things like payroll and accounts payable, we have 33 markets to run this for. To find people who are experienced at running that kind of complexity is very difficult in Australia, whereas some global companies have done this for years. By being able to tap into a wider pool of skillsets across multiple locations we can leverage these learnings and operate more efficiently.“

“There is a real opportunity through blending highly skilled employees with low cost delivery so that we can be both locally competitive and cost effective. Nowhere is this as important as when you are competing in low cost locations.”

Looking for the extra edge

Looking at what you do from a customer perspective is challenging, as current best practice has been focused on SLAs and not based around the moving target of providing excellent customer service.   SLAs are typically set at the worst outcome your customer is willing to accept – meeting that consistently is hardly a good measure of success.

Simen explains: “The focus cannot be on these types of measures, the focus must be on solving the issue for your customer. My approach to shared services leverages skill and expertise across our regions to design, build and deliver services with the customer in mind.

“You’ve really got to focus on quality, as bad quality is a driver of resource requirements. The other focus is to ensure that the work being done is worth doing or is it work which exists as a result of failure in other processes.  We are seeing substantial opportunities in ‘turning off’ volumes by fixing things at source by looking beyond the current process and into what would have been ‘perfect’.

“We have seen a significant uptake in both external customer satisfaction and  internal customer satisfaction over recent  years.  It’s something we’re spending a lot of resources on as we see that as critical for our long term success.

“We focus on getting the customer service right and embed this  in our processes.

Also, when you have satisfied customers it gives you the room you need to further innovate and improve. If you are on the backfoot with quality you are spending all your time firefighting.  I don’t want great firefighters, I want superb ‘fire prevention officers’ – the people whom are able to look at things which are ‘not perfect’ and change them prior to issues becoming real service issues.”

Increased expectations

For outsourcers, these changes in approach can be quite complicated. Previously a product or transaction based approach was the norm, and you could meaningfully quote for particular parts of a business.  In a component based enterprise, the ‘end to end’ products disappear as many processes are identical across products and there is a new need to offer value beyond undertaking a particular type of ‘set in concrete’ work.

“This is similar to what happened in manufacturing decades ago, you can’t just aim to deliver to outdated SLAs, you have to own the outcomes in a very different way, as your element is integrated into the overall service delivery in a much more holistic manner.  The outsourcer needs to make sure they drive the innovation within their area, it isn’t only about the ‘run’ and meeting SLAs anymore.

“You need a competitive advantage beyond offshoring.  Outsourcers really need to bring something which adds value beyond the  added complexity of engaging with them, demonstrating they know what a business wants, they know what good output looks like and they know how to do it effectively.

“Overall, we’re seeing a strong growth in the industry towards work going to captives as they have proven to be more effective in driving adaptive change – it is difficult to outsource change. However, as organisations are increasingly process oriented, there’s a huge opportunity for outsourcers to provide large scale processes offering standardization while leveraging capabilities across multiple customers.” said Simen.

“I continue to see Global Shared Servicesas a key growth area in the corporate world, and an exciting area of opportunity for talent.  The specialist skill-sets required to effectively use a global delivery model, optimise skill-sets across talent pools and locations,  automation, organisation, production management is valued and there is a level of excitement about how the world of service delivery is changing.

“We are also seeing real opportunities in other areas, for instance, reporting and analytics is an important area for us.  We see that as a huge growth area, both in terms of offering the service to others across ANZ, but also in terms of using those insights into operating more effectively ourselves.

“There are two golden rules: quality cannot go down and price cannot go up. We don’t believe we need to compromise on quality to get the cost benefit when we do this right.

“Our customers need consistency, effectiveness and efficiency and that is what we aim to deliver,”said Simen.

“If you look at what’s successful from our perspective there’s only two metrics which really matter: customer satisfaction and cost.”

Join Simen during Shared Services & Outsourcing Week 2014 where he’ll be delivering the presentation Driving out Costs while Improving Internal Customer Service Delivery.

Content Marketing World Sydney: What I took from day 1

I’ll be honest, when I rocked up to Content Marketing World Sydney (or #CMWorld), I was a little sceptical. Primarily because i work in the conference industry so I understand how hard it is to get a decent coffee at these things. Secondly, because I had a feeling the day may be centred around ‘the art of story telling’.

Don’t get me wrong, and you can probably tell by the name of this blog – I love story telling. Ultimately though i feel like that’s where Australia has got a bit stuck when it comes to content. Articles, podcasts, webinars, ebooks, infographics – in my current job we’ve been doing these pretty well for over a year now.

Yes, i know i should be doing more videos, but i was looking for a little more from CMWorld – APAC’s largest gathering of content experts.

It’s the end of day one now and i’ve been pleasantly surprised. The event is really well run and the speakers are very energetic and passionate about what they do. The lunch was pretty tasty too. Coffee, yeah it’s a bit rubbish but you can’t win them all.

Anyway, i wanted to share a few key points i picked up today:

  • Content Strategy – Network Strategy

This was the big takeaway for me. We’ve been fine tuning the content strategy for a while now. The term network strategy came up during the morning session and it’s exactly where i want to focus our own efforts. The thing about digital (and no i don’t think print is dead) is that it’s built on a series of platforms, it’s spread by a series of influencers. Those influencers used to be sports stars, actors, musicians, models… Not anymore. Absolutely anyone with a twitter account and blog can become an influencer – let’s try to become them and let’s try to engage with them.

Social proof is becoming paramount. If you look for a picture of a cat in a box – are you more likely to share the cat that only 3 people have looked at, or the cat that has had 300 views? (Personally i’d go for this one.)

There’s a few key things for network strategy: a) find the influencers in your business  – websites like Klout can help you find out who has the potential to spread content widely across the network by scoring the people you work with on their social influence. b) appinions – I think toilet roll is a boring subject matter. But if i’m developing a toilet roll product, is my influence matched with the rest of the market? For example, i say no one wants to read content around Claims Leakage in insurance – but what am i comparing that with? Are there conversations happening without my content? Appinion can provide the tools to check you’re not missing a gap. c) People – they are everywhere talking about everything under the sun, let’s find them, let’s engage with them and let’s work together to spread the word beyond our internal campaign cycle.

  • Customer Centricity

Without waffling on too much about this, as someone who works in b2b content – it’s something i’ve written about a lot. Today served as a strong reminder to check that i’m talking the talk in my own content marketing practices. 1000 photo’s are added every minute with the #me on instagram. No joke. The new marketing mix isn’t about the ‘4Ps’ anymore – it’s about principles, people, ideas then launch – it’s all about the customer. Marketing is giving people something to talk about. The challenge from today was set: It isn’t the best idea that wins, it’s the greatest understanding of the customer.

  • Be honest and fail

The other key area worth a mention today all centred around trial and error. Be honest in your content – if you’re speaking to someone because they are sponsoring your product – tell the reader. If you’re interviewing someone that bought you an ice cream – tell the reader. Also, it’s ok to fail. Push the boundaries. Those ideas that give us a bit of fear… give them a go. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.

Few key people to follow from today: @MarkSchaefer, @BernadetteJiwa and @TimWasher.

To sum up in one line we need: relevant audience, meaningful content and consistent engagement.

Looking forward to the breakout sessions tomorrow…